How depression has affected me
Not fitting in
When I got to university, on my foundation course, I had real trouble fitting in with people because I was living at home. I´d go in and they´d be going out somewhere and I wouldn´t be able to go with them. I felt separate from them because they were getting on really well and it got worse when we went on trips together.
These two girls in the group formed a friendship and I felt like they were always putting me down, especially when we went on a field trip to Paris. I had a really bad time there and ended up being really stupid and storming out of a club and getting lost because they´d left me and gone somewhere else.
Always felt like an outcast
I can draw a comparison with primary school where there were two girls, one who I´d originally been friends with and then there was the `she´s my friend now, not yours´ kind of thing, like kids do really. I´ve always felt like a bit of an outcast type who tries to fit in, but the more you try to fit in, the more irritating you become.
Cut off and numb
I remember thinking that I was only staying with my boyfriend at the time because I didn´t want to upset him and just not feeling anything about him at all. Trying to get romantically involved with someone seems numbing; it doesn´t happen. I sometimes feel I am forcing myself to feel stuff for people – maybe I feel like I should be. Or I try to make up for emotional feelings with sexual feelings, but even that doesn´t really work.
Narcolepsy and lack of motivation
I was falling asleep all the time and it was disruptive. Particularly during lectures, I´d be unable to stop myself falling asleep. When I was in a car or on a train – when I was warm and comfortable and not doing anything – I´d just fall asleep. Wanting to sleep all the time seemed to link in with me feeling low and not wanting to do anything.
Pills didn´t help
I got some pills from the GP, but they didn´t seem to do anything; I think they were placebos. I think she gave them to me to get me to go away… You feel they fob you off sometimes. She got me to fill out a questionnaire and then gave me some tablets. I got better but I don´t feel it was the tablets that made me better.
Not wanting to be labelled
I´ve never wanted to fall into the category of being `that weird depressed art girl´ so when I feel sad I keep certain things to myself. I´m reluctant to go for any kind of help because that would drop me straight into that grouping. I think to myself I will go and see the counsellor, but by the time I get to the stage where I have some time free to go and do it, I don´t feel sad any more and then I don´t want to.
`No right to be depressed´
When I think about it I have absolutely no right to be depressed (and I don´t like to use that word either). There are people who are sad because they´ve got genuine reasons to feel sad. I don´t have any problems I would consider real because they´re in my head and it feels like it´s my own fault.
Critical inner voices
I have the initial nagging voice in my head saying `They don´t like you as much; you don´t fit in´ which can be considerably stronger than a voice which says `Don´t be stupid; that´s not how things work; you are being self-pitying.´ That´s usually a shouting down voice.
Repetitive negative evaluations
I obsess and obsess secretly over the impression I give off to other people and afterwards I think back on things over and over, combing it for fault. I often drive others crazy talking about it.
Disappointing myself and others
I feel that if I fail in something, it is disappointing myself – no longer that my parents will shout at me but disappointing myself. But it still feels like I shouldn´t do something that´s bad or I should try my best not to disappoint myself.
I was very self-righteous and opinionated, and quite academic as a young person. But I have passed up any opportunity of becoming something important like a doctor. Going into art has made me feel as if I am copping out because it´s not so academic. But I can´t think of anything else I would have wanted to do.
Not knowing what to do with my life
I´ve never known what I want to do really. I identified reading about Sylvia Plath recently. She was disillusioned and doesn´t know what she wants to do and everything from there goes down hill, and in relationships she doesn´t know what´s going on or how to attach to anybody. I can draw comparisons where she doesn´t know how to be in a relationship with someone and how she doesn´t know what to do with her life.
I want to be creative but I don´t have the capacity to be creative. Like the right side of my brain is being overruled by the left side, so the logical/creative balance isn´t there. I have ideas but I don´t get round to writing them because I feel if I can´t do them justice then it´s not worth doing.
On holiday in Spain a year ago I started to experience overwhelming feelings that my sister got on better with my mum than I do. It started off small but I found it hard to stop myself feeling depressed and almost bursting into tears a lot. I started to get nagging voices in the back of my head telling me that my mum was always miserable when I came home and she´d be much happier if my sister were back, not me.
You know in your own mind that these things absolutely are not true. I´ve always had a problem with paranoia, particularly when I´m trying to make friends. It was worse at Christmas because mum got a lot happier when everyone was home. That was the first time she noticed me dwelling on it. I was almost in tears, but I couldn´t confide something that I thought sounded so self-pitying and knew wasn´t true.
I confided it in my sister though and she said exactly what I already knew. I was being stupid. She told mum what I had said. She obviously got very annoyed that I´d even imply that she loved any of the others more than me and that just made me more miserable.
Falling back into ruminating
I began to look forward to going back to student accommodation just to get away from my own thoughts. The thing was though, that even back at university I´d find some other way to torment myself thinking things over and over about my friends or boys I liked.
Prone to `over thinking´
I don´t know exactly when it started because I´ve always been prone to over-thinking things from a young age. I´m the eldest of four children and I´ve always harboured resentment at feeling I don´t fit in with my family as well as my brothers and sister.
Difficult being the eldest
There´s not much of an age gap, my sister´s only a year younger than me and the next brother is two years younger. There was always this sense of having to be responsible and set an example even though they didn´t do anything I said and seemed to club together to irritate me. It didn´t help that my sister took on the bossy maternal role of the siblings as we got older.
Problems fitting in at school
When I was younger the family thing didn´t really bother me as much, but it was more the fitting in at school that I was worried about. There is always the showy girl who gets picked to play the Virgin Mary, who seems like the teacher´s favourite, and I was that little kid on the outside of the circle trying to fit in – the geeky one who gets really annoying after a while.
Being picked on
At school I remember put downs from a popular girl and other upsetting things – I did go to the head teacher at one point and then we had an assembly on bullying. I remember feeling sad, on the edge, an outcast; but I suppose most of the time I was happy. What really used to cheer me up was my mum saying `They´re jealous of you.´ That´s something that you can always fall back on.
Feeling outcast in the family
Not fitting in with your family is worse because it makes you feel like the black sheep and the outcast. I feel I should be close with my mum and my sister because we are all women in the family, but I am not really the same. On my mum´s side of the family, they are all the same way – jovial and jokey. The men are offensively jokey. I feel I am different to everyone else.
I´ve always felt like I´ve been compared – to my dad´s older sister, or brother, or my mum´s. The way they sometimes talk about them behind their backs, I wonder if my brothers and sister are going to be doing that about me one day and I wonder if I´ll lose touch with them and end up completely on my own.
Being told to get over it doesn´t help
I spoke to my mum about how I was feeling and tried to explain it, but she can´t understand it. She told me that I was being overly paranoid and that it was an illness to be paranoid and I should get over it – but it doesn´t seem to work like that!
I eventually talked it properly out with my mum. Even though I didn´t think she understood, it did help to talk about it with her, because she knew then. Going to the GP seemed to help a little bit because then it was classified as something that was normal.
Finding someone who will listen
If I feel sad, the first thing I´ll do is try to find someone I can speak to, like close friends – people who´ve been friends for a long time. That sometimes helps me – to talk about things.
Offering mutual support
My closest friend, who I speak to about a lot of this stuff, has a lot of problems herself. I suppose we are sort of rocks for each other. She´ll ring me whenever she feels sad and there is one particular problem she has had for a very long time, but I´d never say `You should just get over it´ because I know it´s not helpful to her and it´ll just make her sad. If she wants me, I´ll listen and I know if I need someone, she´ll listen to me.
Being kinder to myself
When I get the critical negative thoughts, I also have a voice that says `It could be worse; you are alright; doing ok.´ That´s the one that comes through most of the time now. Or I´ll cry and then stop crying and be over it.
Confronting irrational thoughts
I think talking it over with my mum was the peak of it, I´ve definitely been better since – I don´t think about it so much. I think, however much you want to just crawl inside and feel sorry for yourself, the only way to deal with irrational thinking is to confront it and have someone tell you how wrong you are.
Distraction and keeping busy
There´s only a certain amount I can confront these problems without falling back into them again – it´s impossible to just turn your brain off completely. Usually I have to stop myself by doing something that distracts from it.
Address passing suicidal thoughts
Everyone has those thoughts, those wallowing thoughts where you think `Oh no! What would happen if I died? Everyone would be on my side!´, but I don´t like to entertain those sorts of thoughts. I know that if I die, it wouldn´t do anyone any good. You don´t want people you love to have to go through things like that, and a lot of the time I know my thoughts are delusional.
What I´ve learnt
Recognising the danger of `wallowing´
It makes you sad when you think over things, over and over again. Sometimes you need to keep busy. It´s worth occupying your mind so it doesn´t settle on those kinds of thoughts – most of the time it´s because I allow myself to wallow that I end up becoming so upset.
Keep trying to find the right people to talk to
It can be destructive if you find someone who brushes you off and doesn´t want to speak about it. If you can´t speak to people close to you who don´t understand then you need to find other people who can.
Accept that people might not fully understand
I think talking about it helps. Despite being awkward talking about that sort of thing and that I don´t think my mum really understood what I tried to say entirely, I feel like I´ve gotten a bit better since talking to her.
Remaining critical about labels
I am not so bad about calling it depression now; it just seems like a kind of cliché.